Beauty in Dark Times

I know I’m not alone in feeling something of a constant, low-grade “depression” (not to be clinical about it, but for lack of a more accurate word) during what has been a uniquely difficult year for the world.

Countless fires in my home state, Oregon (or is it “Mordoregon”?) ~ one of which started at the north end of my own town, Ashland, this past Tuesday, and caused devastation in its northward path to neighboring towns ~ and all over the West, and the Covid-19 shutdown, and ineffective leadership, and racial injustice…all feel like an oppressive shadow obscuring any brightness in the world.  Now, we hardly need more brooding words about the state of the world; rather, we need hope, joy,  kindness, good works for our neighbors, beauty, and art. Sometimes it has been all some of us can do to just live, and pray, and work; some of my own opera listening and watching has fallen by the wayside. But it is a sad loss, if that’s too long the case. We’ve lifted up the neglected “essential workers” during this time of pandemic, and it’s beyond wonderful. Now, I feel more than ever how truly essential also are our artists, actors, musicians, and those who bring beauty into the world. I don’t intend to focus on anything but music and opera in this blog, but only to take a brief pause, to remind myself, if nothing else, not to neglect the beauty that we live for.

Speaking of those who bring beauty into the world, one of my opera heroes, Ildar Abdrazakov, has tested positive for Covid-19, and I hope and pray for his quick and full recovery, and for all of his family.

I am so curious as to how, and whether, the Don Carlos from the Wiener Staatsoper, with Ildar and Jonas, will continue as scheduled, in the midst of social distancing. But if does, I’ll be there…virtually!

Another bright spot during these times, for many, has been not only the nightly Met Opera stream, but the Met Stars Live in Concert series ~ and I’ve seen three of them so far, with Jonas, Renee Fleming, and Roberto Alagna and his wife, Aleksandra Kurzak, and so thoroughly enjoyed them all!

Dulcamara and Nemorino. Photo credit:

The latter, set on a platform above a beautiful Mediterranean vista, was so much fun, and particularly the duet from L’Elisir d’Amore, that I finally watched my first L’Elisir! I can’t believe I hadn’t seen one yet. It was a subtitled 1997 version from Lyon, with a very young Roberto Alagna ~ whose Nemorino was very reminiscent of a clumsy, adorable, hapless Charlie Chaplin ~ and Angela Gheorghiu. The whole cast did a lovely job, and the two leads were so delightful.

If anyone else has beautiful, inspiring, or just downright funny and delightful operas to recommend, I’d love to hear them! Meanwhile, here’s a virtual toast to art, opera, opera friendships, and laughter! And prayers for all of our beloved artists worldwide, and for our suffering world.

Dear Ildar, please rest and recover!

16 thoughts on “Beauty in Dark Times

  1. Thanks Rachel. Insightful and positive thoughts. We are coming through it – despite all the dreadful times and I have seen how flexible and supportive human beings can be. Love your blog! 💝🎼🎶💝

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the update. These are not “top” operas but they have helped my mental health of late:
    “Don Pasquale,” “L’Italiana in Algeri,” “Martha,” “La Serva Padrona” (short opera very sprightly), “Les Paladins” by Rameau, “Falstaff” and “Gianni Schicchi”. I sent you a PM on Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Rachel, good to read your post and let’s keep the spirit of optimism raised high !

    I thought of you when I attended a glorious outdoor concert at Glyndebourne on 23rd August, conducted by the lovely Robin Ticciati. The first half included pieces by Wagner (Siegfried Idyll) and Mahler, while the second part was given over to a hilarious one act comic operetta by Offenbach called “Les Mesdames de la Halle” but sung in a new English translation as “In the market for love”. It might even be filmed and shown on tv at some time, or find its way to YouTube…..I will keep you posted !

    With love from Christine (Holliday)

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dearest Rachel, what a lovely blog! I don’t know where to begin on recommending operas. We are lucky enough in France to get a lot broadcast in glorious HD free to air, so I have quite a collection. I’ve downloaded quite a few from internet sources which you may have seen too, including Die Töte Stadt, and Forza with Jonas from Covent Garden. This my full list, but I don’t know which you can track down to see, but there seems to be a lot out there at the moment. A new production of my second favourite opera a Jenufa in Toulouse was cancelled because of Covid, and who knows if the Jonas/Anja Harteros Tristan will go ahead next year. And more importantly will I get a ticket for the dream team in my favourite opera? I’ll die if I don’t! In meantime here’s my list. Don’t be jealous. Not all are good productions, but all have wonderful singing.

    Salut et fraternité!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salut et fraternite, Paul!! 🙂 So happy you found this blog!! I did see the Forza…and yes, I’m really curious about the Jonas/Anja Tristan, what a dream team! I assume you’ll be right there as soon as ticket sales open up…if they do at all??? Keeping an eye out for that list! Virtual hugs from our smoky West…


  5. I absolutely LOVED your new beautiful post dearest mio fratello!!!!!!!! I absolutely loved all what you wrote and your wonderful words are always inspirational and heartwarming! Thank you so much for praying for Ildar and his family and for also dedicating your wonderful post to all artists who bring us joy and beauty in this world and that right now they are suffering in this difficult moments of the covid 19. I also feel like you, sometimes I was like in up and down. But we must be strong and positive. I agree completely with you, this year has been terrible with the covid 19, the racial injustice, the wildfires in Oregon and more things to name. I also feel that the “Eye of Sauron” is present in this terrible year. The best thing that we can do is that all of us, as a humanity, to be together, to have positive energy, tp pray together and like the wonderful Joyce DiDonato recently said… to still believe in love. Love is what can heal all these negative things that happened in 2020. I agree completely with what you said with your wonderful words…”we need hope, joy, kindness, good works for our neighbors, beauty, and art. ” You expressed it so beautifully and so well dearest mio fratello! I am so happy that you loved the “Met Stars live in Concert” with Jonas, Renee, Roberto and Aleksandra! Roberto’s “La, La, La, La, La,” made me smile so much! These concerts were a joy! For me, another of the biggest highlights of the year was the unforgettable “At Home Gala” in which all of our favorite Opera singers brought us joy from their different homes and that made all of us opera fans to be together, virtually together, in one of the most difficult moments. I am also so happy that you loved “L’Elisir d’amore” with Roberto!!! I agree completely with you, L’Elisir d’amore is a perfect feel good opera and I am so happy that you loved it, specially with Roberto! I agree completely again mio fratello, Nemorino is very Chaplin-ish character! For feel good operas, I recommend you, Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito”, in which talks about what a real good, inspirational and kind leader should be. (And it has a Happy ending ) Thank you for praying for all of our beloved opera artists that are suffering dearest mio fratello and thank you for praying for dear Ildar!!!!! My heart and prayers are also with Ildar, all opera artists, all opera houses and also for you, your beautiful family and Oregon!!!! Please take good care and be safe mio fratello!!! And remember, like our dear King Rene Pape said in “At Home Gala”… “we must never lose our sense of humor…. even in the darkest or the worst of times” . Many hugs and love mio fratello and I am so happy that you wrote again in your wonderful blog! I missed your posts so much!!!! Vivremo Insiem!!!! Aid us our own resuscitation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear mio fratello!!!! I absolutely LOVED your comment and it cheers me up a lot on this Monday morning, which may be the start of a difficult work week for many …!!! I agree, we must never lose our sense of humor. Yay, King René!! Thank you so much for the recommendation of La Clemenza do Tito!!! It is about time I finally watched/listened to one, because I don’t think I’ve even heard a version on the radio yet! I hope you have a beautiful week and keep heart in the midst of all that is going on in the world…Vivremo Insiem!! (Genius of the Restoration…) 💛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my!!!! Now that I remember, there is a version of “La Clemenza di Tito” with Jonas as Tito from the Zurich Opera… I think that from 2005. If I remember well, it is a modern production. I also recommend you from the Met site the traditional version of “La Clemenza di Tito” in which has Elina Garanca as Sesto. Mozart always gives positive energy and “La Clemenza di Tito” has wonderful ensemble singing, many wonderful arias and the music is gorgeous and even thought that it is considered as an “opera seria”…. it has a happy ending and with a very good feeling at the end and it has a good message of what a real, inspirational leader should be. I think that you will love it! 🙂 I hope that everything goes well in this week mio fratello and keep the spirit! King Rene was very wise of what he said in “At Home Gala”… no matter what happens, we must always keep laughing and have sense of humor. 🙂 Big hugs and keep the spirit mio fratello!!!! Vivremo Insiem!!!! ….aid our own resuscitation! 💛🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely!!!! And WOW! Of course I must go look for the Jonas Clemenza!!!!!! Whew….that is an absolute MUST!!! and I will see what other versions there are…and Mozart sounds perfect right now 💛


  6. “Now, I feel more than ever how truly essential also are our artists, actors, musicians, and those who bring beauty into the world.”

    Amen. And again, Amen.

    Thank you for reminding us that beauty really can save the world . . . ugliness and evil will not have the final word.

    In the midst of such unrelenting darkness, it is hard to “see” that truth, goodness, and beauty will prevail. But, we know that they will.

    Thanks again for the rich hope you are sharing with your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s